The Cross, the Tree of Life

Tree of Life by Sir Edward Burne Jones  © Victoria and Albert Museum, London Inscription reads: "You shall have affliction in the world, but have faith, for I have overcome the world'

Tree of Life by Sir Edward Burne Jones
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Inscription reads: “You shall have affliction in the world, but have faith, for I have overcome the world’

“In the centre of Paradise there was a tree. It was used by the serpent to deceive our first parents. Take note of this surprising fact: that to deceive man the serpent resorted to a feeling inherent in his nature. When he formed man, besides a general understanding of the world, the Lord had actually placed within him a desire for God.

No sooner had the devil discovered this yearning than he said to man: “You will become like gods (Gn 3,5). For the present you are only human and cannot always be with God; but if you become like gods then you will always be with him”… In this way, it was her desire to be God’s equal that seduced the woman…, she both ate and urged the man to do the same… Now, after this offence, “Adam heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden towards evening” (Gn 3,8)… Blessed be the Lord of hosts for having visited Adam at evening time! And for still visiting him now towards evening, on the Cross.

For it was at the very time that Adam had just eaten, those hours marked by his sin and condemnation, that the Lord underwent his passion, namely, between the sixth and the ninth hours. Adam ate at the sixth hour, according to nature’s law; then he hid. And towards evening, God came to him.

Adam had wanted to become God; what he wanted was impossible. Christ fulfilled this desire. “You wanted to become what you could not,” he said, “but I desire to become man, and I can do it. God does the complete opposite to what you did when you allowed yourself to be led astray. You longed for something beyond you but I am taking what is beneath me. You longed to be God’s equal but I desire to become man’s equal… You desired to become God and were unable. But I became man to make the impossible, possible.”

Yes, this is indeed why God has come. He reveals it to his apostles: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you” (Lk 22,15)… He came down at evening and said: “Adam, where are you?” (Gn 3,9)… He who came to suffer is the same as he who came down into Paradise.”

Severian of Gabala (?-c.408), Bishop in Syria
6th Homily on the Creation of the world, 5-6

More Good Friday reading:

‘This doubtful day of feast or fast’: Good Friday and the Annunciation The Clerk of Oxford reflects on the not-accidental conjunction of Good Friday with March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. (This conjunction won’t happen again in our lifetime.) Don’t miss the beautiful poem by John Donne from 1608, another year when the two coincided, “Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling Upon One Day.” A brief excerpt here, but do go and read it all:

“Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy;
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angel’s Ave and Consummatum est.”

We call this Friday good Simcha Fisher shares a selection from T.S. Eliot’s East Coker

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